A Literature Review of Computers and Pedagogy for Journalism and Mass Communication Education

Article excerpt

A growing body of scholarship on computers and pedagogy encompasses a broad range of topics. This review is focused upon research judged to have implications within journalism and mass communication education. Broadly defined, the literature considers computer use in course design and teaching, student attributes in a digital learning context, the role of digital information in student learning outcomes, and the role of faculty attitudes.

Course Design and Teaching

The adoption of instructional computer pedagogy is associated with substantial changes to the configuration and format of a broad range of pedagogical practices, including increased student responsibility and active learning engagement. Course planning now may take into consideration increased faculty and student access to an extended range of information resources, student participation through out-of-class online interaction, and the asynchronous and immediate distribution of class-inclusive materials and information,1 as well as negative attributes such as increased access to materials that may be plagiarized and data that may be inaccurate.

A comparative literature in which digitally enhanced pedagogies and curricula among disciplines are examined has yet to emerge. Nonetheless, disciplinary adoption is widely observable in disciplines outside of communication such as medicine and geography.2

One branch of inquiry has examined the relation of computers to new skill acquisition. In some instances, for example, students may become engaged at higher levels of cognition through application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of class materials.3 In contrast to traditional environments, the integration of computers into a curriculum, however, requires new learning skills in order to manipulate Internet and computer network searching and to construct useful database archives.4

Within journalism and mass communication education, these newly acquired skills may generate increased immediacy of reporting while integrating reporting procedures involving a variety of media.5 One study investigated the adoption of computer-assisted reporting skills over the past decade among journalism and mass communication programs. The majority of the programs surveyed provided instruction in Internet utilization and included introductory skills for searching newspaper archives and online databases.6 E-mail and other electronic information forms may also play a relevant role and at least one study argued the importance of Internet mastery to public relations curricula.7

An often-expressed goal is the facilitation of active student engagement in learning, through activities that facilitate acquisition of knowledge from sources other than the traditional lecture, and by increased student-to-student and student-to-faculty interaction.8 Computer networks have been used to expand the learning community to include experts and industry professionals,9 although the most common usage appears to involve the creation of computer networks for student-to-student out-of-class discussion.10 Gunaratne and Lee also point to the use of digital networks to make library availability an integral element of curriculum and instruction.11

Access issues are not limited to mainstream populations. A developing body of literature highlights the possibility of extending the level of access to disabled students with vision, hearing, and mobility problems.12

Student Attributes

Several scholars have examined the relations among student characteristics, computers and learning. Two categories or subdivisions are prominent in the literature: individual differences (prior computer experience, attitude, learning style preferences) and group differences (gender, ethnicity, disability). Few such published articles in communication journals were found, so we turned to education journals where the topic is receiving greater attention. Our review is confined to the most common types of studies that also have implications for journalism and communication education. …